Speaking Notes on the occasion of the ANC Youth League Virtual Memorial Service for the Late Kenneth Kaunda by Cde S Mohai, ANC Parliamentary Caucus Chairperson


29 June 2021

Comrade Chairperson;
Members of the Branch Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League;
NTT Convenor Cde Nonceba Mhlauli;
Leaders of the ANC, the SACP, COSATU and fraternal organisations;
University of the Free State management;
Provincial Government of the Free State, MEC COGTA;

Let me express my sincere gratitude to the ANC Youth League leadership and the branch for inviting me to join this conversation about the father of democracy in Africa.

I must also commend you for convening this important platform to celebrate the life and times of one of Africa's revolutionary giant; the late comrade Kenneth Kaunda.

Comrades there is no doubt that when future generations interpret and analyse the present moment, they will interrogate why the ANC Youth League took interest in President Kaunda and what is the significance of this event to the strategic tasks of the ANC Youth League in the current phase of the national democratic revolution?

This platform today must endeavour to answer these fundamental questions as a matter of necessity particularly because the ANC Youth League remains a brain trust of the revolution to define our continent in relation to the struggle of pushing back the frontiers of colonialism and its attendant racism.

In one of his clarion calls, the former President Thabo Mbeki made it clear that Africa should define for itself a strategic path for its renewal. He made this call because he believed, like Kenneth Kaunda and many other pioneer revolutionary African leaders, that the failure of Africa to define itself continues to entrench the racist colonial sentiment of us Africans as non-humans.

This narrative is entrenched through various platforms including especially mainstream media, centres of learning and various other platforms. It is on the basis of this that we must strengthen our resolve to deconstruct the philosophical foundations of colonialism and its racism.

Colonialism and its racism are twin social constructs against which President Kaunda dedicated his entire life. His mission was to insist that Africans do not reside outside the human family and share in the common human destiny.

An important conversation such as this one should not be undertaken for academic posturing, it must be understood within the context of a necessary intellectual and political expression for a people whose humanity has been trampled upon. It is Karl Marx who insisted in the past that; "every class interests produces its own intellectuals".

Intellectual expression does not mean you must quote racists who despised Africans as some comrades always do. Africa needs to invest in young progressive young such as yourselves and establish a strong critical mass which is authentically African. The heavy reliance on western thought has done more damage to our own sense of pride.

For instance, a renowned European imperialist and racist intellectual called F. G.W Hegel who is always quoted in glowing terms sometimes out of context had the following to say about Africa in one of his writings:

"Africa is a truncated monstrosity, the land of childhood from which North Africa, especially Egypt is excised and attached to Europe, and where history, philosophy and culture are enveloped in the dark mantle of night because its inhabitants, the Negroes exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state ".

I am saying this to emphasise the point that we must be critical at all times when we engage literature and always locate it within the context of Africa's struggle to be recognised as an equal partner in human destiny.

As a result of wrong things that we read, many of our brothers in the North of Sahara like Egypt and Algeria for instance, still regard themselves as Europeans as a consequence of which they too look down on Africans.

Comrades by convening this discussion, you are undoubtedly reclaiming the historic mission of the founding fathers of ANC Youth League in the mould of Anton Lembede, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe and others who insisted that "Africa's cause must triumph".

This strategic mission of the ANC Youth League remains more relevant today than it did in the past.

And I am quite happy that you comrades seem ready to drive this mission to its logical conclusion i.e. a better Africa for all.
Now one thing that stands out about President Kaunda, is that Zambia under his leadership became the bedrock for the liberation of other African countries particularly here in Southern Africa. These countries include Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and South Africa.

Comrades there is no doubt that the memory of President Kaunda constitutes a collective heritage of anti-colonial struggles in Africa. These are memories of African solidarity for peace, justice and reconstruction. So here we are essentially celebrating the architect of African unity and independence, a peace merchant, a selfless freedom fighter, a Pan Africanist and a great statesman par excellence.

I am convinced as some of you might be that there is no language under the sun to adequately describe the revolutionary selflessness, fearlessness and courage of President Kaunda.

It may be worth repeating what we said in Parliament (NCOP) during the occasion of Oration of Condolences last week.

We said then that President Kaunda, at a great cost to his people and the country, believed that his own freedom and that of his people are inseparably linked to the freedom of the people of South Africa and the entire African continent.

As a visionary, great African revolutionary strategist and elder statesman, President Kaunda played a critical role in brokering a cease fire between the South African liberation movement led by the African National Congress and the apartheid white minority regime. The people of South Africa owe the peaceful coexistence we are enjoying today to his courage of conviction and outstanding leadership qualities.

All these things he did, not out of cowardice or revolutionary fatigue, but because of his deep conviction that a negotiated settlement of the South African political conflict are the basis for lasting peace and prosperity of all the people of South Africa, the SADC region and the entire Continent.

President Kaunda together with his generations of leaders, the late Mualimo Julius Nyerere, Augostinho Neto, Samora Machel and Robert Mugabe were father figures of the frontline states that pushed colonialism in the Southern tip of Africa to its absolute demise.

He believed like his counter parts in South Africa (the late Oliver Reginald Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela) that South Africa can only chart its collective prosperity and future destiny through a commitment to peaceful negotiations.
This was demonstrated by the African National Congress resolution at its special national consultative conference in Kabwe, Zambia in 1985 in which President Oliver Tambo and his leadership collective was directed to focus on two strategic priorities, namely; to intensify the struggle in all fronts and to prepare the ANC for any eventual prospects of a negotiated settlement.

Pursuant to these strategic priorities and having taken wise counsel from President Kaunda, President Oliver Tambo assigned young cadres of the ANC such as Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma in particular to engage in exploratory talks with key sections of white apartheid establishment.

Given the sensitivity surrounding these talks, there were anxieties and tensions within the ranks of our movement. In equal measure, there was a similar anxiety amongst the white establishment in South Africa which made the process extremely difficult to manage and navigate. In our own movement, some believed that Comrade Mbeki - as a leading figure in these talks - was betraying his mandate and therefore a sell-out.

It is unfortunate that some within our ranks and in pursuit of self-glory have elected to vulgarise this glorious history of negotiations in this manner. This narrative is not only mischievous but it is also an insult to President Kaunda who appreciated the necessity for a negotiated settlement.

In truth, these talks created conditions for the ANC adoption of ANC Constitutional Guidelines in 1988 which were later adopted by the Organisation of African Unity as the Harare Declaration in 1989.

The Harare Declaration outlined the conditions under which the African National Congress, as a leading mass party of revolution, would enter into negotiations with the South African regime.

This Declaration was accomplished in the aftermath of the bruising and heroic military battle between apartheid South African Defence Force and the combined forces of Cubans and Angolans at Quito Cuanavale.

The Battle of Quito Cuanavale will [without doubt] go down in history as among decisive moments that led to the liberation of Namibia. For this, many generations of South Africa and the entire SADC region will forever be indebted to the Cubans for their internationalists solidarity which essentially challenged the myth of the apartheid military invincibility.

Comrades you are correct to declare that the life and times of President Kaunda will go down in the annals of history as a tale of heroic African and international solidarity, the story of African renewal and development, and indeed a shining example of democracy and peace.

President Kaunda was easily a democratic leader who accepted the democratic voices of Zambian people by peacefully stepping down after he lost the elections. He was never embittered by the democratic outcome and continued to play an active role in peace-making, reconstruction and development of Zambia as well as other parts of Africa.

To demonstrate his unflinching commitment to the peaceful resolution of the South African political conflict, President Kaunda defied the temptations of triumphalism and stood true to his humility. There is no better way to express this humility than what he said after the adoption of the Harare Declaration and the signals by the apartheid regime to enter into peaceful negotiations.

He declared, "The Ball is Now in Pretoria's Court."

To celebrate the life and times of President Kaunda without his peers and fellow comrades in arms for Africa's peace and renewal will be the writing of history with blank pages for which future generations will not forgive us.

President Kaunda belongs to a generation of such great leaders as Julius Nyerere who adopted more of a state man approach in his interaction with the African National Congress during the talks about talks.

This was demonstrated by deep commitment towards the resolution of the South African conflict in the true spirit of co-operation and compromise.

There is no better way to describe this than through his own words when he said to Oliver Tambo and the ANC delegation:

"You have not defeated these people. That is why you are negotiating with them. And therefore, you have to create necessary space that recognise that this is not a defeated force."

The heroic upsurge of anti-colonial movements in many parts of Africa and SADC in particular, was undoubtedly a catalyst in inspiring the death defying militancy of the successive generations of the oppressed youth of South Africa.

These are heroic battles that inspired the heroism of the 1976 detachment of Umkonto We Sizwe and the Young Lions under the leadership of the late Peter Mokaba and Rapu Molekane who shook the apartheid regime through militant mass actions. Again a demonstration of what progressively radical young people can do to turn the wheels of history.

President Kaunda welcomed the ANC and its young revolutionary democrats without any hesitation and provided what was humanly possible - sometimes at the expense of his own people. As one of our stalwart, Comrade Mac Maharaj, recounts; President Kaunda never confined them to the camps but integrated them with the Zambian people.

As we celebrate the life and times of this Pan Africanist giant, the ANC Youth League has a great duty to accomplish the founding and historic mission of securing the triumph of Africa. The most critical but easy way of accomplishing this mission is fighting for the unity and renewal of the African National Congress as a vehicle for fundamental transformation of our society. The ANC Youth League must work extraordinarily hard for the strengthening of multilateral youth dialogue in Africa towards a better Africa for all her children. The cooperation of African countries at strategic level is a struggle that young people in the ANC must champion.

This includes using African Free Trade Area Agreement as a necessary policy instruments for Africa's renewal, reconstruction and development which Kenneth Kaunda struggled for.

Comrades to honor President Kaunda - without prescribing a political programme for you - the ANC Youth League must occupy every street and corner of our country to mobilize young people and our broader society against the demon of Xenophobia which threatens the social fabric of Africa for which President Kaunda struggled. It will be a colossal betrayal of the legacy of President Kaunda if the ANC Youth League stands a bystander in the process of unity and renewal which is currently underway.

You have outlined free decolonial education and economic freedom as your generational mission, this is a mission you should not fail. This you must realize by any means necessary even if it means throttling us older generations should we dare stand in your way.

You must fight for space comrades because nobody will willingly surrender it. But you must not fight for space for its own sake, you must be driven by ideas which take the ANC and our society forward. I am happy we are joined by the leadership of Youth League; I am confident that they will buttress this issue of living up to dictates of your generational mission.

In conclusion (comrades), our country is faced with a demon of Covid19 which is causing untold havoc in the lives and livelihoods of our people.

You comrades need to be located at the cutting edge of fighting against this demon including pushing for government to respond adequately and qualitatively in this regard. Where wrongs things are done, you need to raise them sharply without any fear. It is not uncharacteristic of young people to be robust and unapologetic in raising issues.

I Thank You!